The Entrepreneurs Fallacy
Is Work-Life Balance Overrated?
This was the headline of a recent article in Forbes that examined the idea of work-life balance and provided insights into how entrepreneurs viewed it.
The article highlighted a recent study conducted by Investec Private Bank that showed that entrepreneurs do not place a high priority on their own well being. This was backed up with the following stats from the Investec study:
68% of entrepreneurs say the importance of a work-life balance is exaggerated
64% said a poor work-life balance is a “necessary sacrifice” to achieve success
61% of entrepreneurs state that they never stop thinking about work
42% of entrepreneurs say they regularly get less than six hours of sleep per night
What is so interesting about this study, and also highlighted by the author of the article, is that these very same entrepreneurs do put an emphasis on the well being of their employees yet do not include themselves in that equation.
Given the information on the study and the author of the article also claiming that she believes she does not do a good job guarding her boundaries as a business owner, I believe we must ask two fundamental questions:
1. Why do entrepreneurs believe they are exempt from having balance and well being for themselves?
2. If they regularly practice a life that is out of balance, are they truly being successful or merely achieving?
To answer the first question, in short, this line of thinking needs to go by the wayside. The idea that entrepreneurs or business leaders in general should sacrifice or neglect their own well being is unhealthy at best and does not make anyone anymore successful.
One of the traits of good leaders is they lead by example. If business leaders are going to say they care about work-life balance for their employees, yet continually believe they are the exception to the rule, they are setting a bad example for their employees. I have worked with more than one executive, and at one time would be in the same group, who would tell the team to be balanced, take time off, don’t always focus on work, etc.; but then at the same time, be sending emails and texts at 10:00pm. Not only is it poor leadership, but the pressure it puts on an employee is unfair and unkind because ignoring a communication from an executive is not easily done.
The idea that we as entrepreneurs and business leaders must sacrifice our whole health i.e. “the hustle” is toxic and the less we buy into the hustle porn craze, the better off they and their employees will be.
The response to the second question is also one that I lived and can speak to the before and after
I used to be a part of the majority of entrepreneurs that rejected work-life balance, got little sleep and was non-stop thinking about work. Eventually, I burned out and in addition to the damage to my personal health, my relationships with my wife and kids were also negatively impacted given my lack of attention to them. While I achieved a lot in terms of my business, I would not say that overall I was successful.
Since I have established work-life boundaries and been more deliberate with managing my time and not making my business the center of all things, I can definitively state that I am more successful than ever both personally and professionally.
There is no doubt that I still work hard, but I do so in a defined period of time which allows me to give more time to my whole health and well being - emotionally, relationally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Additionally, I am the best I have ever been professionally. My thinking is clearer, my creativity has soared, my problem solving skills have vastly improved and the business is having its best revenue year ever. All this while not constantly thinking about the business and getting 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
There is no doubt that running your own business and setting out on an entrepreneurial venture is pressure packed, that is indeed part of the thrill. But to think that we need to be continually in business mode, is ego driven, founded in fear and robs us and our employees of the joy and beauty that we could otherwise experience.
It is time to shed the idea of the hustle and realize that we, our businesses and employees will be better when we tend to our whole person and health.